You might enjoy video games, but did you know you can make a living out of playing them? This got me thinking, so I started investigating what it takes to become a professional video game player. To clarify, in this blogpost I will examine Twitch streamers in particular. I am aware of other platforms such as this exist, but because this one is among the most widely spread ones I will take it as an example. The aim is to highlight how these very recent inventions gave rise to a whole new section of the job market that the Internet has already been providing us with.
First of all, a brief introduction to this platform.
Twitch (aka Twitch.tv) was first launched in 2011, is owned by Amazon and has its headquarters in San Francisco. “The site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, “in real life” streams.”* As you can see, it spans through a wide variety of topics, and people keep coming up with more.
One of the main reasons people tune in to Twitch is the (recent) rise of eSports. “”eSports” is simply the short name for electronic sports. Just like football players play football together, eSports players play computer games against each other.”** And just like with traditional sports, eSports also get broadcasted and tournaments take place in large arenas with big crowds of people spectating and cheering their favorite teams/players.
However, there are also other types of Twitch streamers. For example, you can go on Twitch right now and watch a streamer just eat. This is a new phenomenon known as “Social Eating”, where people stream themselves while eating in front of a camera, sometimes just saying nothing. Many of their viewers are people who are just eating by themselves, and want to have some company, even if it’s not even someone real or someone who they can have a real-time conversation with.
Some other streamers have “just chatting” channels, in which they just talk and interact with their viewers through the Twitch chat, or channels dedicated to podcasting and storytelling. Others stream themselves while drawing, painting, playing music, singing, dancing or doing some other creative activities. There are even streamers of games such as poker, chess and other board games, including Dungeons and Dragons, or even travelling and doing outdoor activities. There are even ASMR channels.
So, what does it take to do to become a Twitch streamer? How much time does it take? I asked the Internet these questions and it delivered. According to the ever-helpful WikiHow website, there are 5 essential steps for becoming a streamer:
1. Sign up for a Twitch account
2. Download the necessary streaming software
3. Make sure your computer can handle the demands of streaming
4. Hook your computer up to a broadband Internet connection
5. Invest in a quality microphone and webcam ***
In order to answer the second question I had to narrow down the scope of the research, so I chose to investigate the gaming aspect of Twitch. According to a Reddit thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/Twitch/comments/8nq18v/on_average_how_long_do_you_guys_stream/), a lot of people who stream do it casually, more like a hobby, especially those with families and/or full time jobs. According to this other website (https://streamneed.com/successful-twitch-2019/), it takes quite a while before you can become a successful streamer. However, there are things you can do beforehand in order to not start in the deep end, such as getting the equipment, set up, and think about what you want to stream, how you want to do it and how you can be distinguished by others doing very similar things.
Twitch and the increasing number of its uses are proof of how fast new ideas can come up and circulate in this age of hyper-connectivity. Because we are all so constantly connected, it was just a matter of time until a platform like this could come to exist. Thanks to the Internet, the job market has expanded in ways that are new and creative and that could not have been possible just a few decades (and sometimes even a few years) before their invention. Twitch streaming is one of these new jobs. “It is estimated that the top 10 Twitch streamers gross over $20 million between them.”**** It takes a combination of factors to earn that much as streamers (read source 4 for more info), but personality plays quite a big role. It can be safe to say that when people tune in to watch Twitch streamers, they also do that because they like the way the streamers present themselves, their streaming personalities. Many of these people (streamers) would probably be doing something completely different with their lives, if i weren’t for the rise of platforms such as Twitch. They can combine their skills in whatever they are doing while streaming with their personality, be it genuine or crafted for entertainment purposes. So in a way streaming platforms have been changing how people present themselves, their character, because they cannot edit the streams, they happen in real time. Especially if they are full time streamers, their personality is part of their job. Does that mean we are turning into a society that monetizes personality?